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North Shore rallies for man told to leave pier because he’s Black: ‘It shouldn’t happen anywhere’

‘I honestly don’t know what to say,’ Otis Campbell told a crowd of more than 100 people. Two weeks earlier, he was confronted by a woman now charged with a hate crime.

Otis Campbell speaks at a rally at Winnetka pier on Sept 5, 2020.
Otis Campbell speaks at a rally at Winnetka pier on Sept 5, 2020.
David Struett/Sun-Times

Two weeks ago, Otis Campbell’s bicycle trip to the Tower Pier at Winnetka Beach ended with a hateful confrontation with a white woman who told him to leave because he’s Black.

His ride on Saturday ended much differently: with about 100 people who ventured to the north suburb to show their support in the wake of the viral encounter.

“I honestly don’t know what to say,” Campbell, 25, told the crowd that met him at the end of a short bike ride from the Skokie Lagoons. “This is crazy.”

A now-viral video from Aug. 17 shows Campbell being harassed by a woman who questioned whether he was allowed on the pier because of his race.

After asking a park district employee if Campbell needed a pass to be on the beach, and being told he didn’t, the woman in the video asks, “Are you crazy? What, you want to kill me? No? It feels like it.”

Campbell then asks, “Is it because I’m Black?” and the woman says, “Yes,” nodding her head.

After another exchange, she tried to knock the phone out of his hand, Winnetka police said. Irene Donoshaytis was arrested that night and charged with misdemeanor battery. The charge was upgraded to a hate crime on Wednesday.

At Saturday’s rally, Campbell told the crowd he hasn’t lost faith in his community and urged people not to rush to judgment against the woman who confronted him.

“Honestly, I never thought anything different of Winnetka,” he said. “I love all the North Shore. I don’t take people at face value. I judge them for who they are... I want everyone to know: not everyone is like that. Not everyone is what you think they are... Take a second and understand yourself before you judge someone else.”

An organizer of the rally, Patrick Hanley, said he was “delighted” by the show of support.

“It shows there’s latent demand for racial justice,” said Hanley, 31. “We’ve been living with hypocrisy for too long.”

Clara Tomaz and her husband Luca Cusatis at a Sept. 5, 2020, rally for Otis Campbell.
Clara Tomaz and her husband Luca Cusatis at a Sept. 5, 2020, rally for Otis Campbell.
David Struett/Sun-Times

Wendy Schuman of Wilmette said she was deeply disturbed from the video and came to event — the first one she’s attended during the COVID-19 pandemic — to “show love.”

“I keep counting the people who are coming down here” to the rally, she said. “For one bad apple, let’s see how many good people show up.”

Clara Tomaz — who brought a sign reading “Welcome Mr. Otis & friends” — said she saw the video and felt she had to do something.

“It shouldn’t happen anywhere — especially in my hometown,” Tomaz said.